Weatherford Democrat

August 16, 2011

Why isn’t it OK to help each other?

Margarita Venegas
Weatherford Democrat

WEATHERFORD — We have a semi-strict rule at work that there shall not be any Facebooking. We can do it for work, but many times in search of story ideas, we do troll Facebook pages just to see what our friends and fellow residents are thinking.

That’s how I came across a friend’s page that had a picture of a comment from Twitter, something along the lines of, “The U.S. should invade the U.S. and in order to endear the citizens to the U.S., build roads and infrastructure and create jobs.”

My friend commented on the photo by stating, “That solution is too easy.”

That’s just sad. Since when did it become too complicated to help ourselves and our neighbors?

I remember when I became jaded. I lived in Savannah, Ga., just after graduating from college. I started out as a freelancer with a part-time job at a hospital — making almost $100 (after taxes) shuffling medical equipment and, if I was lucky, $200 to $500 a month from selling stories and/or photos. I ate beans and rice for most meals and volunteered to cover any event for the weekly paper as long as it involved going to a place that served free food.

As I walked from job to job — I shared a car with my roommate — inevitably I’d be approached by panhandlers. They’d always have similar down-on-my-luck types of stories — car broke down and they need money for a bus ticket was the most popular because there was a Greyhound station in the middle of town.

I stayed there for four years and by the end of my time in Savannah, I could walk past these people without even blinking in their direction. They meant nothing to me and I would get furious if they tried to follow me or yelled at me.

After all, I worked hard for every scrap of money I made. Even when I managed to get a full-time job, I started out with a typically low journalist’s salary of $18,000. They would not get a dime because they’d chosen their life of not working and possibly using all their money on drugs.

My mother saw me do this during a visit, and she was appalled.

“Even if you’re not going to give them money, you can at least acknowledge them,” she reminded me. “They are humans. Maybe they didn’t make the right decisions. Maybe they don’t deserve your hard-earned money. But, they do deserve a look in the eye. They are not animals.”

I still stick to my resolve of not giving money to beggars. If someone asks for food, I will buy them a meal. If someone seems to have a real need, I’ll recommend places that will help them. If they choose to walk away from a meal because they’d prefer to use drugs or if they prefer not to get help from a place like Center of Hope, which requires those in need to attend job classes and work to improve their conditions, then that is their burden to bear.

But just because you’ve done it better or made better decisions in life — or had better luck — it’s no reason to turn up your nose at someone and tell yourself that you’re better and that they are worse.

It worries me that the country is becoming more and more elitist at a time of our greatest need.

While some people may never truly deserve or want help, when someone sticks out his or her hand in honest need and that person is willing to do what it takes to better himself or herself, I’d like to think there are still enough people in our country who would extend their helping hands.

To that end, the Democrat is taking the lead in trying to help others. We are starting with a food drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, in the parking lot of our location, 512 Palo Pinto St., Weatherford. Canned goods and non-perishable items will go to the Center of Hope and the Senior Center. We are searching for local businesses who can give up items for raffle so we can earn some extra money for this cause.

Our community is important to us and we want to take care of it. We hope to see you here with that same goal in mind.

— Margarita Venegas, Editor